Party of Socialists leader MP Igor Dodon maintains lead in the popularity rating of presidential candidates, as per the results of the opinion poll. He has most chances to reach the second round in elections dated October 30, though he is one of the most controversial candidates. The officialheld different positions in the state and he owns properties worth over 2.5 million lei. His name was mentioned in schemes about the import, through intermediaries, of electric energy in Ukraine and of monopolizing the market of meat importation. Also, the socialist is accused of concealing certain businesses. The funding of the Socialist Party causes most of controversy.
Career and political migration
Igor Dodon was employed in 1997 and within 8 years before he was elected MP in the Government, he served in MoldovaStock Exchangeand the National Securities Commission. In 2005, Dodon involved in politics and first, he was appointed deputy minister of Economy and a year later he was elected Minister of Economy and Commerce until 2009 when he gave up the mandate of member of the Cabinet of Ministers and served as MP of the Communist faction, a party which he has promoted for a long period of time. Two years later, after he failed the local elections for the seat of mayor of the capital, the politician began to distance from the communists and by the end of that year, he quitted the faction and joined the Socialist Party, managed by the deputy-chairpersonof the party Veronica Abramciuc. One year later, she was excluded from the party and she declared that Dodon took over the faction following a raider attack. He has vehemently criticized the alliances at power from 2009 to present, but he succeeded to save the Alliance for European Integration 2 in a turning point and he accepted to vote withNicolaeTimofti in the presidential elections in the Republic of Moldova.
Igor Dodon held state positions and had owned modest properties for years. Family Dodon owned a small 2-room flat in district Posta Veche. They have 2 children and they had an average monthly income of about 13.000 lei.Current candidate for presidential elections in Moldova could afford just to change cars and make generous donations (higher than his income for one year) to parties which he represented, in the electoral campaigns.
In his income statement for 2007 and 2008 he reported a carMazda 6, 2003 and Nissan Micro, 2006. In 2009 he sold the cars and bought a Toyota Land Cruise, a car which he sold in 2012 at the price of 79.000 lei, and then a year later he purchased a jeep Toyota Rav 4, against122.000 lei. In 2013, Dodon sold his small flat , that was estimated over the years at the price of 180.000, then of 230.000 lei, at a price by 3 times higher (735.000 lei), and he immediately bought a luxury house which he estimates, together with afferent land, at about 2,5 million lei. Real estate experts estimate the value of the house at about 4 million lei. According to data from Cadastre, the socialist sold his flat to his party colleague Corneliu Furculita who is among the main sponsors of the Party of Socialists and founder of Exclusiv Media.
Donations for elections exceed revenue for three years
To cover the remaining amount needed to purchase the house, Igor Dodon has contracted a loan of 1,477 million lei from Victoriabank, institution which is said to be controlled by Plahotniuc. Journalists from Ziarul de Garda said that Dodon wanted the future house one year before he purchased it, when the house was under construction.
In the period 2010-2015, the politician donated 464.000 lei in 4 electoral campaigns for parliamentary and local elections. Igor Dodon donated 150.000 lei for the parliamentary elections in 2010 and this is the whole income of his family for 2009 (154.000 lei), for local elections in 2011 –200.000 de lei, which is by 48.000 lei more that the whole income of the family for 2010 (152.000 lei), he donated 89.300 leiin the parliamentary elections from 2014,and 25.000 lei for 2015 local elections.
Igor Dodon founded the charity Foundation „Soluţia” (“Solution”) and the Public Association „Iubesc Moldova” (“I love Moldova”). The financial contribution of the socialist for the activity of these institutions is not known. Contrary to legal provisions, the organizations did not make public the financial reports for previous years.
Canning factory „connected” to Dodon
The press wrote previously that Igor Dodon holds a state, through intermediaries, at the Canning factory inCalarasi, district home of the politician. He has never reported about it in his statement on property. According to Capital Market, publication of the National Commission for Financial Market (CNPF), the socialist owns a 37% stakes in the canning factory, through the intermediary Alina Botoc, Igor Dodon’s agent and the company Hunter Elit Club, which the press wrote that it is controlled by Ghenadie Merineanu, brother of Dodon’s wife. Also he holds a majority stake in the Oniscani winery, Calarasi, owned by SA Proura-Vin, with the same intermediaries. Over the past years, Hunter Elit Club has changed its owners several times.
Alina Botoc is deputy head of the Privatization Directorate of Public Property Agency (PPA) and was appointed to this office on December 3, 2007, when Igor Dodon was Minister of Economy.PPA was an institution subordinated to the Ministry. Executive Director of the canning factory Mihai Vladicescu is Igor Dodon’s godfather.
Currently, Hunter Elit Club in acts is owned by Veaceslav Anghel, member of PSRM. According to an investigation carried out by Ziarul de Garda in partnership with the Center for Investigative Journalism, Veaceslav Anghel is initial founder of SRL Consacces, specialized in constructions and SRL Exclusiv Media, that owns the newspaper in Russian language „Argumentî i Faktî”. Igor Dodon’s wife, Galina and Ludmila, Corneliu Furculita’s wife, socialist MP and one of the most important sponsors of the party, work for this newspaper. Currently, Furculita is the only partner of Exclusiv Media. Dodon admits that he knows Botoc, Vladicescu and Merineanu, but he denies any connection with the canning factory in district Calarasi.
Dodon, „Meat Mafia” and Russian embargo
Also, Igor Dodon was accused by the press that while he was Minister of Economy, he established monopoly on the importation of meat by approving the Regulation "On granting permits for products importation", under which a special commission headed by the then socialist issued permits for the import of meat products. Thus, " Meat mafia” appeared, because permits were issued only to some businessmen based on Dodon's decision. One of the businessmanaccused by the director of Centre for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption (CCECC) Viorel Chetraru as being involved in this “Meat mafia" was SergheiIaralov,Vlad Plahotniuc’s agent. CCECC investigated in 2009 this monopolistic scheme of meat importation, but investigations ended with fining some involved companies.
Igor Dodon has been accused over the past years of deals with responsibles from Rospotrebnadzor andRosselhoznadzor on accepting on the Russian market of many companies exporting wine and cognac, fruits and vegetables, in the context of the embargo set by the Russian Federation in 2011 for theseMoldovan products.
Also, Dodon is suspectedof establishinggreen corridor for the company "Moldavskii standard", the only one in Moldova entitled during the communist leadership to deliver bulk wine and cognac abroad. This, in condition when, the official ruled that theGovernment from Chisinau bans the bulk export for other companies. Also, with his help, the same company was the first who escaped the embargo set by the Russian Federation in 2011. The politician rejected these accusations repeatedly.
Dodon in the attention of CCCEC
Instead, the candidate for presidential elections inMoldova has pleaded guilty in a separate scandal that happened in April 2009 after the Center for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption (CCECC) carried out a revision for 2007-2008 in the Institute of Economy, Finance and Statistics of the Academy of Sciences. According to the report, the 2006 state budget lost at least 3.5 million lei through this institute. Although not a single day Dodonhas developed scientific activity at this institute, hereceived a salary of 6000-7000 lei per month, plus consistent bonuses. The Institute was managedby the current head of the Competition Council, Viorica Carare.
Following that control, the Prosecutor General had started a criminal case which was ignored within 3 months, writes newspaper "Timpul". Igor Dodon, along with five other ghost employees of the institute has returned wages. Dodon returned 72.657 lei to the state, thus he admitted his fault for misappropriation of money.
Intermediary from energy importation
The Center for Investigative Journalism revealed in 2008 about an old scheme of power import from Ukraine. Based on an agreement negotiated with the then Minister of Economy Igor Dodon, starting with 2008, Republic of Moldova started to purchase electricity from Ukraine based on a Hungarian intermediary company, Energo-Partner. According to some clauses of the moldo-ukrainian agreement signed by Igor Dodon, SA Energocom bought initially 70% from the electricity imported from Ukraine with the help of Ukrinterenergo, while other 30%- through Hungarian company. Since July 2008- things happened in reverse. The price of the energy delivered by Energo-Partner was, according to journalists by 20-25 percent less than that of energy delivered by Energo-Partner. Change of the import scheme led to substantial increase in tariffs to domestic electricity, which increased inaverage by 17% on July 30. The contract, by which Energo-Partner, controlled by Ukrainian billionaire of Slovak origin, became the main supplier of electricity to Moldova, was signed on May 20, 2008 by Alexandru Gusev, general director of Energocom in the presence of Minister Dodon.
„Black List ”
In 2009, Igor Dodon featured in the "black list" drawn up by investigative journalists under the "Clean Parliament" project. Thus, the Communists’ candidate for the seat of MP was accused of having used hisoffice for party interests by exerting pressure on members of the Association of Goods Producers in Moldova. He convened a meeting at the Government to dismiss the president of this Association. On the other hand, according to the Court of Accounts , based on the order of the Minister Dodon dated May 30 2007, 4 employees from the central apparatus of the Ministry received excessive wage increases.
Responsibles of the list of candidates who did not meet the integrity criteria said that during 2007 and 2008, Igor Dodon held other paid positions, as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Moldtelecom, which is contrary to the law on Government. It prohibits ministers holding other paid positions. Moreover, in the period when he was Minister of Economy and Trade in Government Greceanii, Igor Dodon supported and countersigned some illegally hid decisions of the Executive on money allocation from the reserve fund.
Money from Bahamas
Also, the funding process of the Socialist Party headed by Igor Dodon is doubtful. The investigative journalists revealed lately many schemes by which money from off-shore zones or from dubious persons reached the party.
In a recent investigation, Rise Moldova reveals that the Party ofSocialists benefited from sponsorship worth millions of lei from a secret business with an off-shore company in Bahamas, connected to the Russian Federation. The company transferred over 30 million lei and the money reached Moldova some months before the presidential elections, with the help of Exclusiv Media, company that is currently owned by the MP Corneliu Furculita and managed by Petru Burduja, municipal councilor of PSRM in Chisinau. Based on some loan agreements, millions of lei reached this company from many persons close to the party and its sponsors.
Though the loan agreement from Bahamas signed by offshore and the company of Furculita was translated into Russian and English, all disputes arising from the contract shall be regulated by the financial and procedural legislation of the Russian Federation and will be examined by the International Commercial Arbitration Court at the Russian Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
During five years since Igor Dodon has been a leader of PSRM, the party has constantly benefited from generous donations from employees of Exclusiv Media. For instance, they donated 85,000 lei in 2014 election campaign.
Sponsorship from Shor and Platon?
In March 2015, when Igor Dodon accused Ilan Sor in the context of the theft in the Moldovan banking system, the current mayor of Orhei made a curious disclosure. He told in a press conference that he funded Dodon’s election campaign for 2011 local elections, when he ran for mayor of the capital.
„Dear Igor Nicolaevici, we know each other very well. When wehave grown close and shared the same vision, we had the same plans for the future. This has been the start of your political career. We used to meet very often. You asked my help and I helped you. It has been before 2011 local elections. We have grown very close then. I supported you, inclusively financially to develop your election campaign”, saidIlanSor. Leader of PSRM said that he did not get any funding from the businessman. „As for funding- perhaps he funded PCRM, I do not know, I did not get any funding from him”, wroteIgor Dodon on a socialization net.
However, shortly after this riposte, Dodon excluded Viorel Melnic from the Political Executive Bureau. Viorel Melnic is his old friend which he promoted for theoffice of deputy-minister of Economy, when he headed the institution and then to Customs Service (2008-2009). Viorel Melnic's name appears in the Kroll report about the theft from Banca de Economii, he was a stakeholder at Unibank and chairman of the Boarding Council of the bank. When Shor was elected mayor of Orhei, he appointed Melnic his adviser.
The topic of funding by Ilan Shor for Dodon's party came to public attention in this election campaign after the former head of the Public Procurement Agency Igor Grigoriev, appointed by Dodon, revealed in an interview for portal Deschide.md that in a moment of sincerity, Ilan Sor admitted that he funded Igor Dodon’s campaign in 2011 together with Veaceslav Platon. Grigoriev said that Dodon lied when he said that he was against the sale of some state property and that he was in a pretty good relationship with Vlad Plahotniuc. After the interview was published, Grigoriev revealed to media that he received a threatening letter from Dodon.
In the context of funding sources for PSRM, press invoked many times the name of the president of the biggest bank in Russia Gherman Gref, former Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister. Dodon and Gref know each other since 2007, the period when both of them managed the relevant ministries. The relations were kept after Gref ended his mandate and was elected president of Sberbank. In 2011, in the context of local elections, Dodon went to Moscow and met many representatives of Kremlin, including Gherman Gref, president of Sberbank, institution which is said to exert payment and credit transactions for organizations that were created or promoted by Russians in the post-Soviet space. In September 2012, Dodon met Gref in the International Investment Forum Soci-2012, organized by Sberbank of the Russian Federation. Attending the event were members of the Government of the Russian Federation, governors and representatives of business, Russian and international top managers, like Lukoil, Rosnefti, Gazprom. Sberbank organizes such events 2 times per year with the participation of 40–50 persons.
Today, Igor Dodon is known as an ardent follower of the Eastern vector of development of the Republic of Moldova, his name being associated with the violent struggle against the European integration of the state. In the presidential elections dated October 30, Dodon promised openly that one of the first things he will do if he is elected president would be denouncing the Association Agreement with the EU. Just seven years ago, Dodon had a different opinion about the Agreement that legislated Moldova’s accession to EU.
In a document signed by the politician in 2007, when he was Minister of Economy and Trade, Dodon advocated for signing the Free Trade Agreement with the EU, which he considered very advantageous for the Republic of Moldova.
According to Ziarul National, the current leader of PSRM calling on us to join the Customs Union convinced the then Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of advantages "of negotiating a Free Trade Agreement only within a European Association Agreement, which contains additional components for the development and access to funding sources and funds".
This is not the only example of hypocrisy that betrays Dodon. The Socialists' leader declared in 2011 in a TV interview, that Moldova's accession to the Customs Union is not impossible as long as the state does not have common borders with countries that are part of this union.
"It is unprofessional to talk that we can be members of the Customs Union with the help of port Giurgiulesti. It is a utopia to talk about joining this Union, as long as we do not have a common border. And I want to ask officials who plead for organizing a referendum in this regard: How will you do that? ", said Dodon three years ago, and today, he requests organizing a referendum on this issue.
Conditioned aliances PD-PSRM
While he declared himself a fierce opponent of the ruling coalition, there were at least several situationswhen the socialists led by Dodon collaborated with the current democratic government. Thus, after the local elections in June 2015, the Democratic Party was represented by several district councils in the country, thanks to the vote of district councilors. This happened in Ungheni, Drochia, Soldanesti, Falesti, Nisporeni, Briceni, Hancesti. After representatives of the Socialist Party were elected to manage these districts, Dodon came in a press conference and announced that he will exclude all district councilors from the party, who will vote for the election of "oligarchic-unionist parties at the leadership of districts.
With the Socialists’ votes, the Democrats dismissed Filat's government, then Government Strelet, and in October 2015, the socialists backed the request of the general prosecutor Corneliu Gurin to lift Vlad Filat’s immunity. In his last speech delivered from the central rostrum of Parliament, leader of the Liberal Democrats said that this was done at the command of Vlad Plahotniuc. On October 22, 2015 , with the Socialists’ vote, the Parliament decided to shift CNA (National Anti-corruption Center) from the Government to Parliament’s subordination. The initiative proposed by democrats was taken in the context when the then PM Valeriu Streletaimed to dismiss Viorel Chetraru for modest results in terms of fight against corruption. Thus, Chetraru escaped resignation owing to the vote of Socialists.
In March current year, at the request of a socialist MP, the Parliament voted urgently a draft law on amending the Broadcasting Code. Experts say that this Code will enable the controversial businessman Vlad Plahotniuc to remain the only media mogul in the Republic of Moldova. Initially, the bill was designed to eliminate the concentration of media outlets in the hands of some people; the document was changed at the last moment, at the initiative of the socialist MP Andrian Lebedinschi to prevent the creation of other media holdings in the coming years.
The draft was approved several months after, at the end of 2015, Exclusiv Media SRL has obtained the broadcasting license for NTV Moldova, under same trademark with the Russian station NTV whose shareholder is Gazprom group.
This article was accomplished under the project "Shining a light on electoral transparency in Moldova", carried out by the Centre for Investigative Journalism, Center for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption and Ziarul de Garda, with the support of Freedom House.